Winning an Oscar is often the pinnacle of an actor’s career. The golden statuette is probably the most coveted piece of hardware in Hollywood. Some wins are pretty much expected, some are absolute shockers, and some never even get the call despite their stellar performances. It’s a pretty exclusive group.
Even more exclusive is the select group of actors and actresses who have managed to receive a nomination early in the careers. What do we mean by early? Try getting a nom by age eight. Or winning at age ten. So who are these trailblazers? Some have only heightened their star levels in the years since the honor, and others will probably warrant a Google search. But all are a part of Academy Award history.
19. Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence left her mark on the Academy in 2016 by becoming the youngest actress, at age 25, to receive four Oscar nominations. Her first came in 2011 for Winter’s Bone in the best actress category when she was just 20. She followed that up with a supporting actress nom for American Hustle (2013) and a best actress nod for Joy (2016). Of course, her defining moment came at the 2013 Oscars when she tripped on her way to collect her best actress award for her role in the Silver Linings Playbook. The win made her the second youngest winner in that category at the age of 22.
18. Marlee Matlin
Matlin was only 21 when she took home the Oscar for best actress in 1986 for her powerful performance in Children of a Lesser God. The actress played a custodian at a school for the hearing impaired who falls in love with a speech teacher. However, his determination to have her speak instead of sign threatens to drive a wedge between them. In addition to being the youngest ever to win in the best actress category, Matlin broke the mold as the only deaf actor to win an Oscar. #Legend
17. Quvenzhané Wallis
Wallis broke several barriers in her debut role as a Hurricane Katrina survivor in Beasts of the Southern Wild. The nine-year-old became the youngest-ever Oscar nominee in the best actress category, as well as the first person born in the 21st century and the first African-American child to garner a nom. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the Louisiana native took a huge risk to land her big break by telling a bit of a white lie. She was five at the time of casting but pretended to be six, which was the cutoff age. Talk about guts!
16. Kate Winslet
While the debate over whether there was enough space for Rose to save Jack on her makeshift raft at the end of Titanic rages on 20 years later, lead actress Kate Winslet has amassed an incredible seven Oscar nominations. Her first came, not for that iconic Titanic role, but for best supporting actress in Sense and Sensibility. Winslet would go on to be nominated four more times before triumphing in 2009, winning best actress for The Reader. That also marked another milestone. It made her the youngest person, at 33, to receive six Oscar noms. Not to be outdone, Kate the Great received her seventh nomination in 2016.
15. Keira Knightley
We’ve come to know her as the swashbuckling Elizabeth Swann in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise but Keira Knightley was already a well-respected actress long before setting sail on the high seas. Knightley was just 20-years-old when she received her first best actress Oscar nomination for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 2006. She lost out to Reese Witherspoon but got another shot at the golden statuette in 2015 for The Imitation Game, for which she received a best supporting actress nomination.
14. Hailee Steinfeld
Hailee Steinfeld has more than made her case for being a dual threat. Her sizzling single “Starving” climbed steadily up the Billboard charts in 2016. And let’s not forget her role as Emily Junk in the Pitch Perfect franchise, which first put her singing chops on display. But before all that, Steinfeld was making her mark as an Oscar-nominated supporting actress at the age of 14. Steinfeld’s star turn as Mattie Ross came in the 2010 western True Grit opposite Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, and Josh Brolin. Ironically, Steinfeld had been quoted as saying that she thought her career would be over after filming. Instead her star has shone even brighter.
13. Tatum O’Neal
Life imitated art for Ryan and Tatum O’Neal when they played a father-daughter duo in the 1973 film Paper Moon. The elder O’Neal meets the young girl at her mother’s funeral which raises unconfirmed suspicions that she is his child. En route to dropping her off at her aunt’s, he realizes that they have a shared penchant for swindling. Safe to say he’s not exactly a role model. Playing a young con artist earned the ten-year-old an Academy Award for best supporting actress. The win made O’Neal the youngest Oscar winner across all categories and it’s a record she still holds today.
12. Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster was only 14 when she was nominated in 1977 for her role as Iris, a teen prostitute in Taxi Driver. The film by the legendary director Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro launched Foster’s now decades-long career. While she did not win that bid for best-supporting actress, she would go on to garner three subsequent Oscar nominations for best actress. Foster eventually won for The Accused in 1989 and for what might be her most iconic role as Clarice Starling in the spine-tingling psychological thriller, Silence of the Lambs in 1992.
11. Keisha Castle Hughes
Game of Thrones fans may recognize her as the fierce Obara Sand, but long before appearing on the uber-popular HBO series, Keisha Castle Hughes made her acting debut in 2002’s Whale Rider. The 12-year-old New Zealander played Pai, a Maori girl whose dream is to become the chief her tribe – an honor which her grandfather believed should be traditionally passed on to men. The novice actress was rewarded with a best actress Oscar nomination in 2003, which at the time made her the youngest to be recognized in that category.
10. Haley Joel Osment
“I see dead people.” These are words that will live on in cinematic lore. It’s one of those classic lines that need no context. You know the movie, the scene, and by now you know the premise. But just in case you happened to have been caught up in a zombie apocalypse for the past couple of decades, this memorable moment was brought to us courtesy of Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. The 11-year-old was a scene stealer in M. Night Shyamalan’s supernatural thriller and earned an Oscar nomination for his standout role.
9. Anna Paquin
Before Anna Paquin was everyone’s fave fairy/waitress on HBO’s True Blood, she was known for her place in Oscar history. A nine-year-old Paquin was plucked from over 5,000 kids, including her sister, to play Flora McGrath in The Piano. It turned out to be the perfect choice. Paquin charmed audiences and became the second youngest to ever win an Oscar when she took home best supporting actress in 1994. Prior to landing her Academy Award winning role, her greatest claim to fame was playing a skunk in a school play back in her native New Zealand. Talk about a glo up. Side Note: Between Hughes and Paquin, New Zealand is crushing the super young Oscar nom game.
8. Leonardo DiCaprio
Is there any doubt that Leo is Hollywood royalty at this point? The actor has cemented his spot as one of the best ever. And the Academy agrees. DiCaprio had his first brush with Oscar back in 1994 when he was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape at the age of 19. He didn’t take home the golden statuette but somehow you just knew he was going to claim one soon enough. Well, it took 22 years and five nominations, including one as a producer, but DiCaprio finally got the missing piece of the puzzle: best actor in The Revenant. Better late than never, right?
7. Abigail Breslin
We were first introduced to five-year-old Abigail Breslin in M. Knight Shyamalan’s Signs. Five years later, Breslin landed the role of a lifetime as plucky pageant hopeful Olive in Little Miss Sunshine. Her performance charmed both the audience and movie critics, landing the 10-year-old her first Oscar nomination for best supporting actress in 2007. This made her the fourth youngest ever to be nominated in that category. Unfortunately, she lost out to Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. Breslin has since gone on to star in Scream Queens and another Oscar nominated film, August: Osage County. But we’ll never forget little Olive.
6. Justin Henry
Henry remains the youngest nominee across all Oscar categories. He received his nomination at the tender age of eight for his role in 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer. The youngster held his own while working opposite Hollywood heavyweights Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, who would both go on to win Academy Awards for the film. Talk about pressure! It was Justin’s first movie role and he knocked it out of the park.
5. Ellen Page
Juno MacGuff is an independent teen who sets out to find suitable parents for her baby following an unplanned pregnancy in the comedy/drama Juno. And actress Ellen Page played the part to perfection, bolstered by years of honing her skills in film and television in her native Canada. Her performance was so impressive that it earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress at the age of 20. Page would lose out to La Vie en Rose’s Marion Cotillard, but has continued to have a thriving career as an actress, producer, and activist.
4. Timothy Hutton
Robert Redford isn’t just a legendary actor but also an accomplished director. His directorial debut, Ordinary People, featured Timothy Hutton as a young man tortured by the guilt of surviving a boating accident which claimed his brother’s life. A twenty-year-old Hutton won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for the role. It is a record which remains intact decades later. Previously the honor had been held by George Chakiris, who won at 27 years old for his role in West Side Story.
3. Saoirse Ronan
Saoirse Ronan is practically an Oscar veteran at this point. It all started back in 2008 when she was only 13. Ronan starred alongside Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in Atonement, as a young aspiring novelist named Briony, whose one deceitful action adversely affected her loved ones. It was a remarkable performance which led to her first Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Now a certified A-Lister, Ronan has since also garnered nominations for Brooklyn (2016) and Lady Bird (2018). And here’s a bit of trivia sure to help you crush it at game night: Ronan is the seventh youngest best supporting actress nominee of all time.
2. Timothée Chalamet
Timothée Chalamet burst into public consciousness when he starred as 17-year-old Elio in the indie film Call Me by Your Name. His performance earned him his first best actor nomination at the age of 22. I know. I know. Twenty-two is not that young when you consider actors in other categories nabbed their noms at eight and even won at ten. But consider this. Chalamet is the youngest best actor nominee in over 70 years! The last to do it? Mickey Rooney for Babes in Arms in 1939 at 19.
1. Mickey Rooney
Well, you knew this one was coming! Way back in 1939, Mickey Rooney earned a nomination for his role as Mickey Moran in Babes in arms. He ultimately lost out to 34-year-old Robert Donat for his part in the remake of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (yes, they were doing remakes, even in 1939). Just a year prior, he had won the Academy Juvenile Award but couldn’t snag the Oscar this time around. After Babes in Arms, he was nominated for the prestigious award three more times but still, at age 93 now, is yet to win one.